Hitting the Right Notes

Jazz Musician’s Home Uses Traditional Japanese Wood in Portland, Oregon

by Marcus Dodson, editor & publisher

The Jazz House is a modern farmhouse aesthetic and new construction project in Northeast Portland, Oregon.  The owner, a jazz musician, wanted something beautiful, low maintenance, and with a professional-grade sound room.  Residential architect Willie Dean of Ground Up Design Works, Portland, developed a modest yet fabulous 2,800 sq.ft., three-story design to accommodate the owner’s needs within a sloping, narrow lot.  Ground Up Design Works focuses on sustainable design for residential and light commercial projects.  Dean is a certified passive house consultant who has been transforming Portland for several years.

         The Jazz House design is a fusion of modern and traditional features, including a high-pitched roof, dormers in the bedrooms, lots of glazing, multiple outdoor areas, advanced mechanical infrastructure, passive energy efficiency, an opulent kitchen, and many natural building materials.  The music studio build-out is at grade on the backside lower slope, accessible from outside or from upstairs.  The open format living area is on the first-floor level with the street, and the bedrooms are upstairs with a view of the neighborhood.

         “We were aiming to do something contemporary but with a nod to the Pacific Northwest wooded setting and the area’s traditional early and mid-century housing,” said Dean.  “This was achieved by the use of the traditional gabled form combined with high-end wood cladding materials used in ways not typically found in traditional housing of the region.  The narrow lot determined the long, skinny footprint of the house and the hill we were building on provided the opportunity to give the house its multi-level complexity.”

         Bachelor General Contractor, Portland, managed the build and chose Joe Ketner Construction, Portland, for the siding installation.  The house is clad with an opulent volume of suyaki shiplap, prefinished by Nakamoto Forestry with two coats of zero-VOC traditional oil and an ebony pigment.  Fenestration and flashing are all black to match, and the black body is highlighted with STK-grade western red cedar finished with an amber-pigmented oil.

         “It was our first time installing this specific product and we did not know what to expect,” said Joseph Ketner, owner, Joe Ketner Construction.  “We were very impressed with the product’s dimensional and finish consistency, and this saved us time culling and defecting boards as is standard with natural wood siding.  Installation was not much more laborious than standard natural wood siding, once we got the hang of handling the product.”

         “Dean went the extra mile designing this project and came up with a modest yet fabulous modern farmhouse design that covered all of the owner’s needs,” said William Beleck, general manager, Nakamoto Forestry North America.  “Bachelor General Contractor managed the project perfectly and Joe Ketner Construction’s siding installation was immaculate.  This is one of our favorite projects in terms of design and execution.

         Suyaki is an original, unbrushed charred surface that is well suited for interior and exterior applications for its ability to withstand high traffic.  It is a type of yakisugi, or shou sugi ban, a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation.  Suyaki’s non-toxic, washable surface makes it an elegant, yet uncomplicated, addition to any space.  Due to the thick, hydrophobic, UV-inhibiting soot layer, Suyaki has some of the best wood and color longevity, as well as incredible fire resistance.  Nakamoto Forestry applies oil prefinishes to solidify the soot layer, making installation easier, minimizing blemishes, and preventing soot from coming off when touched. 

         Nakamoto Forestry is the largest manufacturer of yakisugi in the world and distributes from mill to jobsite within North America from its inventory in Portland.  The company’s four mills in Hiroshima and Tokushima, Japan, operate custom-automated lines to produce high-grade and affordable siding.  Nakamoto Forestry has owned and managed timberlands for several decades, using the logs its harvest teams bring in to mill the most consistent yakisugi available anywhere.  Japan has always had a large domestic forestry industry focused on quality, value, and sustainability, and the Western United States continues to benefit from its quality, natural products.

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